Sheena Sood travelled frequently as a child. Born in Minneapolis in the US, her family often visited their hometown in India, the saturated hues of which inspired a bulk of her work at her Brooklyn-based fashion brand, Abacaxi. Abacaxi is Portuguese for ‘pineapple’, reflecting Sood’s design ethos to blend “a tropical spirit with an NYC lifestyle”. Euphoric overtones and mementos from her travels are ever-present in her collections. An example of this can be seen in the eye-searing violets and knits with shisha, a mirror-work motif found on traditional Indian textiles, in Abacaxi’s spring/summer 2022 collection.
To Sood, sharing her heritage through fashion, making it accessible to everyone and remaining sustainable is paramount. In fact, the Central Saint Martins, Brown University and Rhode Island School of Design graduate founded Abacaxi with eco-consciousness in mind. The designer launched her first full collection in 2020, which featured natural dyes, fibres and unused saris. Here, the trailblazer weighs in on her upcoming autumn/winter 2022 collection and foray into the realm of sustainable fashion.
Which part of your travels inspired your designs for Abacaxi the most?
I was fascinated by the process of custom garment making in India—how you could go to the market, buy the fabric and take it to the tailor. I was exposed to the rich, kaleidoscopic world of Indian textiles early on and that has had a huge influence on my work.
Why did you start your own label?
While there are a lot of brands that produce garments in India, I wanted to work with artisanal textile, embroidery and beading techniques. There are so many at risk of disappearing because they’re not done as widely anymore and I wanted to find a way to bring those intricate processes into everyday clothes, not just for an occasion piece for a wedding.
What are your biggest inspirations in fashion?
So many different things inspire my work, but many times, it’s personal [as I sort] through my experiences, travels, thoughts and meditations. I used to have a fear of the ocean, but I’ll never forget the stingrays at the bottom of the floor the first time I went snorkelling. Stingrays have become a symbol of transformation for me and that memory ended up being part of the inspiration for the Stingray collection.
“I was exposed to the rich, kaleidoscopic world of Indian textiles early on and that has had a huge influence on my work”
How do you bring the traditional and the contemporary together?
I wanted to bring these heritage techniques into our everyday wear and in a different way. When you see shisha (a type of embroidery that attaches small pieces of mirrors to fabric), it’s often on a traditional tunic or home decor. But my take was to do it on a rib-knit fabric and add bugle beads. I think putting shisha on knit brings it into a different part of your wardrobe and is a different way to wear it.
What’s next for you?
Our autumn/winter 2022 collection dropping in August or September is called Press Play. For this one, I felt like doing something celebratory. I was feeling nostalgic for the games that I used to play as a kid. If you look closely at some of the embroidery and beading patterns, there’s little motifs from games like mancala, hopscotch and ludo, and the print of the season is called ‘chicken foot’, which is inspired by dominoes. Other than that, we also have a jewellery collaboration with Elle Qui Vit in July as well as a line of fun crochet hats with beading, all made in Peru.
Photography Enmi Yang
Models Nouri Hassan and Zahra Akinfolarian
Make-up Will Metivier and Randy Rosenthal
Hair Chika Nishiyama